Last week, the UK government awarded a £16million investment pot to a skills and development programme for the creative industries managed by Creative Skillset. This week it added a further £4 million with a focus on improving diversity by recruiting paid interns who are black, asian or from another ethnic minority (which the government and public sector call BAME).

But what does this really offer creatives who want to join or grow within advertising, animation, design, digital, film, games, TV or VFX – and the agencies who employ them?

The £20million from government in joined by £17million from industry. £37million might sound like a lot of money but it has to work across a lot of sectors. As well as the areas Digital Arts readers work in, the pot is also going to industries including fashion and radio. It’s also not just going to fund the training and development of creatives – while some of the schemes that its funding are purely for those with (or who want) creative jobs, others are for anyone employed by a company in the creative industries from admin roles to finance to sales/account management.

The money is also going to spread across the widest range of age ranges and abilities – “from playground to pension” as Skillset’s executive director for industry partnerships Mike Hurst (below) told me at the launch earlier this week at Channel 4. For children and teenagers, Skillset has promised to recruit over 1,000 more professionals from creative companies to go into schools and further education colleges to speak to students, help build the curriculum and offer work experience.

Paid internships in creative companies

For those leaving education, there will be hundreds of new paid internships to help young people get professional experience – and there is hope from those at Skillset that many of these will turn into full-time jobs. Mike disagrees with the prevalent notion from many in the industry and education that job opportunities don’t exist in the creative industries – for example UAL professor Fred Deakin, who recently said “There aren’t any jobs out there, really,” and has been trying to push students into being digital entrepreneurs and setting up their own studios instead of trying to find a job in the traditional manner.

"There are jobs out there,” says Mike. "There’s a myth that some of the creative industries are hard to get into. They can be, but there are ways in. Once you give someone the opportunity of an internship or work experience, they gain the skills employers want.”

The perceived value of internships to graduates has fallen recently due to widespread media reporting of companies – both in the creative industries and outside – using interns as free labour, and even instead of employing people in the entry-level jobs that those interns want. Mike says that Skillset has taken steps to ensure the internships it enables are on the level – all are paid and many at a ‘living wage’.

"We’re really keen to ensure our industries don’t exploit those placements we’re supporting,” he says. "Most of the industry is very supportive of that – they want people to learn, not just cheap labour."

Creative Skillset's Mike Hurst

The additional £4million announced this week is targeted specifically at bringing more BAME people into the industry (other parts of the programme are aimed at improving diversity in other way, including attracting more LBGT and disabled people). Nearly 300 paid internships are being created by 150 employers for BAME graduates with the help of the Creative Access.

“We want to help young people who have talent, drive and determination – but haven’t been able to get a foot in the door,” Creative Access’s head of business development, Nigel Warner, told me at the launch.

What Creative Access does is much more than just source BAME grads and intern positions, it tries to make the experience as rewarding for the intern as possible as the process of selecting a candidate as easy as possible for the employer.

"Employers let us know they’re looking for someone to take on as a trainee and we turn than it into an advertisement and we market that across our networks, which include 50 universities across the UK,” says Nigel. "We take in all the applications and boil it down to a shortlist of CVs to present to a company to decide whether to take somebody on. It’s very much fitting in with what employers need.”

For candidates, Creative Access helps them with interview and CV building skulls, plus gives them a free placement training day to help them understand how things work in a professional environment.

"The other aspect of the process is a masterclass that we hold every month for all of our interns to come together to get to know each other and create their own networks and see how different parts of the creative sectors can work together,” says Nigel.

CPD for creatives

The third area is what the government/public sector calls CPD (continuing professional development) but most of us call professional development – or just training. This will include advertising and marketing training schemes from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and the Marketing Agencies Association (MAA), but also see Creative Skillset creating an online development platform called Hive.

Mike describes Hive as :a new social platform that’s all about joining up individuals with employers and education providers. It’ll match people trying to find jobs and find careers – and give people access to advice from people a year ahead of them via peer-to-peer mentoring."

Creative Skillset is also expanding its ‘Pick The Tick’ accreditation scheme for training courses from apprenticeships to post-grad courses to CPD.